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The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 29th November, 1947

The desire to listen and the action of listening are two quite different states. Most of us are concerned with the desire to learn, to teach, or to acquire something; and in this, effort is involved. If you are interested in what is said, you listen without any effort, and there is communion. So let us listen as though we are really enjoying it, not merely putting up a resistance, or trying to contradict or trying to put your own ideas quicker than somebody else can.

We are dealing with memory, an extraordinary and subtle subject. The majority of us have not thought about this; therefore it requires an extraordinarily attentive mind to follow the current, the movement, the swiftness of it, because each of us is projecting his interpretation of what he considers memory to be. We have to understand the function of memory, either as a means to action, or as a means to understanding. I would suggest that you listen carefully and quietly rather than try to listen or concentrate on listening.

To me authority is binding and blinding. Where there is authority, you do not listen in the same manner as to someone who is talking with you in a friendly manner, and there is little communication. Therefore, do not look on me as an authority, but listen with affectionate and thoughtful attention. We saw that memory is continuity., The self, i.e., the 'I' or the 'me' is a bundle of memories or of qualities or tendencies accumulated through memory, the residual experience of the mind which is the desire, which is the 'me' moving in this continuity. This stream of continuity which we call memory, is a time-process, the time-process being the past, the present and the future.

The mind shuttles back and forward in this continuity, and it is not aware that it is still a part of the continuity, when it separates itself from the stream of continuity, and says 'I remember', 'I recollect', 'I hope', which is future action. When the mind says 'I remember', it considers itself to be separate from "continuity" and looks to the past or to the future, which are the same as 'continuity'. We have to understand why the mind, which is the thinker, the observer, the experiencer, the same as the current of continuity, has separated itself from this constant stream of continuity. The mind is not merely the superficial layer of consciousness but also the unconscious with its many, many layers which is all 'memory'. The understanding of 'memory' is directly related to the understanding of 'Love', "Death', 'Reality'.

Why does the mind separate itself from the stream of continuity and say 'I remember'? The 'I' is non-existent if its qualities are removed. The 'I' is non-existent without memory, its tendencies, gifts and so on, i.e. non-existent without continuity, the racial, the traditional, the past in conjunction with the now, the past flowing through the present to the future which is hope. If we cannot understand that, we cannot bring about a regeneration, a renewal, an ending.

We discussed that what is continuous, the physiological as well as the psychological continuity, is binding, and that there is renewal only in death and not in continuity. There can be death as a renewal only when the whole consciousness is completely empty. For this to happen, every action that you meet should leave no residue, and you should meet anew every experience as it comes.

The whole of our existence is a form of continuity and our whole tendencies are to generate one habit or another. The routine is a habit and habit is a form of continuity. Therefore, we have to discuss the action of memory on all our activities. Technique is learning so as to be able to act in a particular manner without conscious effort. For instance, when you learn the violin, you learn the technique and the words of the song; but you do not learn the joy in the song, i.e. in learning how to play, you do not learn music. Similarly, when I am learning engineering, I am learning facts. to be a creative engineer is different from the technique of engineering. Do you write a poem because you know the technique of writing it? We know factual memory, i.e. dealing with facts, talents, expression of talents and so on. We translate them psychologically to suit ourselves whenever we make a response to any challenge we meet.

It is a fact that our society has recognised caste divisions and has viewed its citizens as belonging to a particular category and that your responses are therefore trained to the category to which you belong. Your whole attitude towards life is based on the division that you are this label. Though you are a human being like the rest, you function or respond only according to that label. You are thus conditioned by tradition to a series of memories that have been handed down by tradition.

What is implied in thinking a thought through? Here is a thought that we are aware of, that we have only factual memory of and nothing else. When I understand that as a false statement with all its implications, I am free from that false statement and therefore I see the truth.

The factual is the screen, is the 'me' in action with the residual, the unconscious 'me', which is hidden; therefore, there is always a conflict between the hidden and the factual. We are aware of the factual, the factual being the immediate, whether the immediate is two to three days, or two to three years.

The conscious mind which is of the superficial layers of consciousness, is aware of the factual, because it is the product of facts learned at school or taught, the immediate response or immediate knowledge through books, through assertion, through techniques and so on. That is, the superficial layers of consciousness are factual memories. Through these layers everything is being translated and accumulated. That accumulation and the unconscious, the hidden as well as the superficial layers, are the whole of 'me'. The hidden layers are all residues of all humanity, as you are not one isolate human entity but the result of the whole of humanity. You are only conscious in the superficial layers, i.e., only, factually; and these conscious layers are always translating and therefore misrepresenting, misinterpreting experiences that are being met, and are strengthening the unconscious by adding to it more and more.

As long as I have the screen of facts through which I translate every experience, the residue is falling below. If I have no screen then it will be quite different.

The problem is that I am only aware of factual memories and I am not aware of psychological memories. I am aware of facts, techniques and actions as memory. I have learned how to play and I translate every song through my technique. I have learned how to write and I am translating the untranslatable. Therefore, as long as I have a technique, the vision of a poem is always limited. As long as I have a technique, which is factual memory, I cannot find that which has no technique.

As long as my brain is made up of facts, techniques, discipline, everyday routine, it cannot find the immeasurable. After all when I write a poem, it is to think of the immeasurable. After writing it I think I am dissatisfied with it because I feel I have not captured the spirit; and in that very process I get lost; thus the process becomes much more important than the problem.

With this mentality of the awareness of the factual, i.e., through the screen of the conscious, we are trying to understand that which is not factual, that which we call Love, God, Death, the Unknown.

Consciousness comes into being when there is friction, when I meet a response, when there is disharmony. Consciousness begins when there is interruption. When I am awake and look at the trees there is no friction, there is no response. I am only watching the tree.

The pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain is consciousness. I am conscious when I want or do not want something. Previous to want and non-want, am I conscious? Are you conscious when there is no want and do you know that state? When I wake up, somebody comes and smiles and I like it. It is friction. The fact is that I become conscious when there is struggle, either pleasurable or painful.

There may be various degree of consciousness, friction, pleasurable or painful, and all the subtle variations of that friction. All that makes me conscious and from that I say existence is pleasurable or painful.

As long as there is effort there is self-consciousness, and yet you say I must make effort to free myself from greed. If effort is self-consciousness, then our whole process is effort; and therefore, we are merely strengthening the consciousness of the self. We are building walls and walls and how can such a consciousness free itself from effort?

What is memory? Why has the mind separated itself from the current of time? How do I set about trying to find the truth myself? I must study the problem. I must not take sides about the problem. I must free myself from all prejudices. I must not be biased, for or against the problem. That means I must free thought from my bias about the problem, and I must come to it anew.

If memory is static or dynamic, the result must also be static or dynamic as the case may be. Memory by itself is static; it is dead, and is given life when I recollect it either as pain or pleasure. Who is the entity that recalls it? That entity is the result of memory. This has to be pursued and understood.

The Observer is the Observed

Madras, India. Group Discussion 29th November, 1947

Jiddu Krishnamurti texts. The Observer Is the Observed. Contains reports of spontaneous discourses about life and reality, given at different times between 1945 and 1948.


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